A mother's worst fear: 'seeing your daughter beat up'
IT WAS the one man this Gympie mother wishes she had never introduced to her daughter.
But by the time she found her daughter laying black and blue in a hospital bed, it was too late.
Everything started off perfectly between Cathy's daughter Natalie (their names have been changed for legal purposes) and Natalie's new boyfriend.
There was a little drug use in the mix, recalls Cathy, but ultimately her daughter was doing well.
Until around three months into the relationship Natalie, who was in her 20s, moved in with her boyfriend.
What came next was a mother's worst nightmare.
"After a very short time, around a week, she stopped answering phone calls when I rang, or the conversations were awkward," Cathy said.
"One day she came up with bruises on her neck," Cathy said.
"She said something like she walked into a door.
"You don't get to this age and believe that."
Cathy said it wasn't long before Natalie's boyfriend started getting violent.
"He'd do things like kick her car door.
"They had a fight in the car Natalie was driving one night and he took the keys from the ignition and threw them out the window.
"I had to come down and help her find the keys.
"He had left and we didn't know where he was.
"When we got home, he wasn't there.
"What we didn't know was that he was hiding out the back."
After that things only got more suspicious.
"I virtually couldn't speak to her," said Cathy, who was usually "best friends" with her daughter.
It was the look on Cathy's grandson's face, after staying with his mum Natalie and her partner, that told so much of the story.
"He would come back kind of disturbed," Cathy said.
Cathy said Natalie's boyfriend had a strong hold over her daughter. He was a jealous partner and controlling her.
The situation in Natalie's relationship peaked when she went to her work Christmas party.
That night would become the last time Natalie would go home to a violent house.
"She went to her work Christmas party against his wishes," Cathy said.
"She was getting bad text messages while she was at the party.
"When she came home, he wasn't there. She went to bed. She woke up and he was on top of her and started beating her."
Natalie was powerless as her partner pinned her to the bed and throttled her.
Natalie had to escape.
"She threw her mobile phone across the room and he got up to get it.
"Then she ran, with no shoes on out of the house.
"She was screaming for help."
Natalie ran from the man she had loved to the nearest house with a light on.
She was lucky; the home owners opened the door.
By the time Cathy got to her daughter, Natalie was in hospital.
"To walk into a hospital and see your daughter just so beat up… she was black and blue.
"It was probably the hardest thing for me to see.
"He was unbelievably violent.
"Then he would send her messages saying 'Oh I love you'."
Natalie had broken ribs, a dislodged tooth, and bruises all over her body.
"The first time Natalie's stepdad saw her he broke down," Cathy said.
The horror didn't end there - when Cathy and Natalie had to go to the house of horror to collect Natalie's dog, the house was a mess.
"He knocked holes in the walls.
"He smashed her laptop.
"He cut her shoes up.
"I was so angry…. You can't even imagine.
"That's my daughter."
Natalie's relationship ended some two years ago, the night her boyfriend beat her. But while she is strong and independent once again, the struggle to move on continues.
But despite the fear, the beating and the emotional pain, Cathy said in one way her daughter was still lucky.
"I'm just grateful he didn't kill her."
It took a beating for Natalie to escape the domestic violence- from that day she has never looked back.
But Cathy urges other women like Natalie, who feel controlled by their partner, to be very careful, never to fall out of contact with loved ones and to always keep their support network close.
"When they try to stop you contacting your friends and family, make sure they don't win that one.
"Make sure you stay in touch."